BUILD UP

UAE, Dubai 2014 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Hesham Abdullah Al Qassim, CEO of wasl Asset Management Group, on e-services, the company's projects, and the overall real estate sector.

HE Hesham Abdullah Al Qassim
BIOGRAPHY
Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim is the CEO for wasl Asset Management Group and is responsible for leading the organization’s transformation into a world-class asset management company. He is also the Deputy Chairman of Emirates NBD Bank PJSC, the Chairman of Emirates Islamic Bank, one of the leading Islamic banks in the region and Emirates NBD Egypt; both are subsidiaries of Emirates NBD PJSC. His senior level financial experience includes a period as General Manager at the National Bank of Dubai, during which he was an architect for new strategies in retail and corporate banking as well as treasury and trade finance. His innovations led the bank to become a leading financial institution in the UAE.

Could you tell us about the new e-service that you've launched to improve your customer service relationship?

In 2011, we opted for SAP as the company's new ERP platform, having previously been based on the Oracle ERP system. Phase I, in June 2012, involved the implementation in the main company, Dubai Real Estate Corporation (DREC), after which we extended the process to our subsidiaries. The first subsidiary to implement the new ERP system was Dubai Golf, which went online in 1Q2013. From there, we have been building up to the customer service phase where we have introduced certain automated services for our clients. We are going to have an application enabling the customer to access the inventory of our entire real estate portfolio with details of price and availability, and the opportunity to study floor plans. And for upcoming projects, a link will lead them to a video preview revealing all aspects of the product. If they like what they see, they can send a purchase inquiry online directly. Once the inquiry reaches the sales center the customer is called and a viewing arranged, proceeding through to a sale. The second stage of the e-services program will involve the direct online renewal and new lease issuing, removing the need for a physical visit. Everything will be electronic including payment, debited through their credit card rather than a normal PDC check. As well as the ERP system, we have also developed the wasl site for wasl Properties and the Land Department. On the Land Department wasl site, people can view the inventory of industrial land available for lease. They can also review such matters as contracts, areas, and zoning. The Property Management site features a property finder with a description of the products available and all other details. Today, the ERP system has taken that up a level where customers can really interact and make business happen, rather than just passively view details on the wasl site.

How is the wasl district heritage project developing?

Wasl district is one of the company's flagship projects. We initiated the scheme one-and-a-half years ago, and the entire heritage concept emerged from our first site visit. Al Maktoum Hospital was one of the first local hospitals, but the Dubai authorities decided that the site was no longer suitable due to local traffic congestion. Therefore, it was shut down, and the land transferred to the DREC. We were thinking of developing the site as a residential project, but then discovered that the oldest building on the site was actually the first hospital to have been built in the whole of Dubai sometime in the 1950s, with much history behind it. Being a heritage site, we converted the building into a museum. And because the hospital building was in the middle of the plot, and one story high, we had to design everything around that and to that level. The first phase is a traditional market design, around the museum encouraging people to roam at their leisure. Surrounding that will be the high-rise residential buildings with a hotel component.

How would you evaluate the real estate sector overall?

I think that Dubai has positioned itself well as a central business hub between Europe and Asia. Having that kind of positioning has led to many growth opportunities for all business sectors in Dubai and the UAE. This has been boosted by Dubai winning the Expo 2020, which will help the economy. I think that today Dubai has the right legislative and tourism platforms, and the right infrastructure to become more of an exhibition hub. It has brought many business groups and companies to this part of the world and is able to cater to all their requirements for doing business.